Ken Smith's Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970

MENTAL HYGIENE: Classroom Films 1945-1970

If your fondest memories from school were those rare occasions when the teacher and the volunteer A/V geek (every class had one or two) would wheel out the Bell and Howell projector to show an instructional film (Dating Dos and Don’ts; Telezonia; Shy Guy, etc.) Ken Smith’s wondrous Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970 is an absolute must-have.

This book is clearly a labor of love on the part of the author and it is a revelation for anyone who has ever wondered where these movies came from. Smith covers the evolution of the format, provides thoughtful essays on the genres (Drivers’ Ed; Sex Ed; Drugs; Social Guidance, etc.) and profiles the main purveyors (Sid Davis – the King of Calamity; Coronet; Centron; Encyclopedia Britanica).

Smith obtained access to all manner of fascinating archival material including production stills, studio promotional literature and internal newsletters. The book is brimming with photographs and other graphics that truly enliven the reading experience. Finally, Mental Hygiene functions as a reference book for educational film fanatics in that it contains a guide to 250 classic movies (“from ACT YOUR AGE to YOUTH IN CRISIS” as the index heralds). Of course, some of these films – including the classic DUCK AND COVER – act as subtle and not-so-subtle reinforcements to American Cold War doctrine.

Ken Smith has produced what must be considered the definitive book on a peculiarly American art form – the social guidance film. It is as indispensable a film studies work as we have come across. Any writer working on an examination of a media genre would benefit greatly by studying Smith’s rigorous, yet totally entertaining approach.

MENTAL HYGIENE: Classroom Films 1945-1970
By Ken Smith
Copyright 1999 by Blast Books, New York
238 pages


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